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Friday, January 31, 2014

Milford Community Snow Day - Winter fun for all

Bundle up the kids and come join the fun at the Milford Community Snow Day at Central Park. Mark your calendars for February 8th from 3:00 to 5:00. This event is brought to you by the Milford Township Parks and Recreation and is free to all.

Sometimes you just have to go for it, even if it’s cold or snowy and this is one of those times. This winter event is designed to get everybody out and moving and give families something fun to do.

There will be lots of activities, including winter crafts and games (one might assume that there could be a snowball fight or two, whether planned or not), sledding and skating and a visit with a sled dog. A storyteller will also be on hand to entertain the young.

More physical activities will include snowshoeing and kayak tobogganing (much less dangerous than kayaking on the river at this time of the year). There will be a bonfire and, of course, cocoa and cookies and S’Mores.  Maybe there’ll be a stray marshmallow or two to roast.

So, starting getting your outdoor fun outfits ready and plan on joining your neighbors at Milford’s Central Park for this afternoon of fun. To view the event poster full size, click here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Divorce and real estate - it takes a team

When things go south in a marriage and divorce seems to be the only way out, the people involved may think of calling their priest or pastor and they may call friend s to commiserate; they may even have already called a lawyer; but, they seldom think of calling a Realtor® and they should.

Divorce is an extremely emotional process, filled with remorse, doubts, regrets and sometime (maybe too often) distrust and hate. It is a time of great vulnerability for all parties involved and a time when there are many decisions to be made, none of which should be made in haste or in hate and without professional advice.
While it may not be top of mind at the time, making good decisions about the single largest asset that most married couple have – their home – is critical for the future of both parties. Make bad or hasty and ill-advised decisions and they might haunt you for years, as you try to rebuild your life.

There is so much complexity surrounding the real estate (and other assets) that may be involved in a divorce that you really need to assemble a team to help you and your Realtor can be the person who does that for you. On the team, you’ll need a good divorce lawyer, your Realtor, your insurance agent, an appraiser, a tax/financial adviser and a mortgage adviser. Your Realtor can probably make recommendations or assemble the rest of this team.

Why all of those folks? Well, each one will either be providing you with advice about products that you already have (insurance, for instance) or products that you will need to get (a new mortgage) in order to move on with life. You need to understand your current homeowners policy – who’s listed as the policy owner (s) and who as the beneficiaries? What happens to that insurance when the divorce is final? Who needs to be listed then and who will be paying for it? As for the tax adviser or financial adviser (it probably will take two people for this), you need to understand the tax consequences of the divorce and make sure that you can file for your fair share of things after the final decree. You may need to have a good idea of the value of the home,is it is to be sold as part of the decree. You also need to understand the consequences on any long-term financial plans or policies or shared assets that you had in place. And, when the dust settles, you may need to get a new mortgage, in order to move on with life. How will this divorce leave you in terms of qualifying on your own for a mortgage? Can you do anything until your name is off the old mortgage or that mortgage has been discharged? Where will you go may be an easier question to answer than how will I afford it?

So, why I’m I writing about this? Because I care, for one, and because I have the team members already in mind to be able to help, from one of best family and divorce lawyers that I know, to a great insurance person, to a very thorough financial adviser and a great tax accountant and a mortgage rep that can make it possible for you to move on in life. These are people that I've worked with and trust to advise you on the aspects that go beyond my real estate capabilities. More importantly they are people that I trust with your fragile emotional state during this very trying time. I can introduce you to a team of professionals that will work with you through this process in a caring, respectful and empathetic way that will lift a lot of burdens from your shoulders and let you start the healing process.

So let’s start off by agreeing that divorce sucks and try to go forward from there the best way that we can, with a caring professional team of people on your side who can make sure that you make the right decisions during the process to come out whole on the other side. Call me and put my team to work for you. If you already have some people for some of these roles, great; let’s just add them to the team. If you don’t even know where to start; call me quickly so that you don’t spend another day by yourself in this process.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recommended Local Business - Nicholson Appraisal Services

Nicholson Appraisal Services, Inc.

As a Realtor® I work with appraisers quite a bit on home sales. These days appraisers are assigned mainly through appraisal management companies, but not always. There are many other reasons why you may need to call an appraiser, which I will discuss here. When you do, you can’t do better in this are than Nicholson Appraisal Services, Inc.

Obviously if you are buying an individual home (house or condo) or if you are buying a rental property of up to 4 units, you will need to have the property appraised. If you are refinancing those same properties or taking out a home equity line of credit, you will also need to have them appraised. Norma Nicholson, owner and principal at Nicholson Appraisal Services, Inc., has been a licensed appraiser for over 20 years. Norma covers many of the counties in Southeastern Michigan – Oakland, Livingston, Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw and Genesee.

Appraisals are also critical when major life changes occur, such as deaths and divorces. In most divorce cases the division of the real property in the divorce settlement requires that the home either be bought out by one of the two parties or that it be sold outright and the proceeds split. That requires that the value of the home be determined and the courts often require that an appraisal be done. The same thing happens in estate settlements when the surviving owner dies. In order to settle most estates the property must be sold and the proceeds split. Again it is critical to get a good appraisal.

Do you feel you are carrying too much of the Property Tax Burden in your community? Have an appraisal report completed by a professional licensed appraiser that will provide supportable documentation of the true market value of your property within the present market, not a market value that was assigned to you years ago. You stand a much better chance of getting your tax basis lowered when you go to the appeal process prepared with a professional appraisal.

If things have gone south for you and you are considering bankruptcy you will need to have your home appraised. Why do you need an appraisal for a bankruptcy filing? Because the court will order one and/or sometimes two if the final opinion of value has a wide range. A licensed appraiser must generate the appraisal report. The courts will not accept what is termed as a CMA (Certified Market Analysis) by a licensed realtor. So get ahead of the game and get an appraisal from Nicholson Appraisal Services.

Other reasons or times to use a professional appraiser include:

  • Insurance Claims for Fire, Wind and Water Damages – There needs to be a restoration value established before you should settle any claim, especially if the damage is such that replacement of the structure is required.
  • For Sale by Private Owners – the most common mistake made by FSBO sellers is pricing. You need to know the value that someone is going to be able to get a mortgage for, before set a price for the property; otherwise you wasting your time and that f potential buyers.
  • Pre-Marriage Estate Planning and Pre-nuptial  agreements – you don’t have to be Donald Trump in order toe have a pre-nup agreement, but you do need to know what the value of the things are that you are trying to protect in the agreement.

Nicholson Appraisal Services uses state of the art appraisal software that includes digital photography and they are are EDI compatible for timely turnaround time via email transmissions. As they state on their web site – “Our Company is small enough to hold quality as the number one priority. That also allows us to extend the lowest appraisal fees within the area on to you.” To visit the Nicholson Appraisal Services, Inc. web site click here. Nicholson Appraisal Services, Inc. is located in Milford at 786 S. Milford Rd, Milford, MI 48381

Nicholson Appraisal Services, Inc. accepts VISA, Mastercard and American Express. Call Norma Nicholson if you have any of the needs discussed above. You’ll be glad you did. Office: 248-684-7987 or Cell: 248-342-9637

Monday, January 27, 2014

January still slow - a great time to list

Here we are with less than a full week to go in January and only 83 homes have sold in the 9 market areas that I track (Townships, including any Villages, Towns or Cities). How slow is that? I went back and looked at the January sales figures for 2013 and 2012 to get some comparison.

In 2012 there were 159 sales in the same markets and in 2013 there were 212. Maybe sales will come roaring in during the last 5 days of thew month, but I doubt that they will double during that time. 

There is some good news in the numbers. Home values have come back significantly. Some examples may be found in the numbers below. Apparently January of last year was bad, too; even though more homes sold during that period.

 For the Milford Market - 

2014 Average Sold Value in January - $297,400 , Ave. Sold Cost per Sq Ft -$135 
2014 Median Sold Value in January  - $291,000 , Median Cost per Sq Ft. - $138 

2013 Average Sold Value in January - $183,206 , Ave. Sold Cost per Sq Ft - $96
2013 Median Sold Value in January - $120,176 , Median Cost per Sq Ft - $88

2012 Average Sold Value in January - $237,003 , Ave Sold Cost per Sq Ft - $100
2102 Median Sold Value in January - $251,570 , Median Sold Cost per Sq Ft - $103

To see the stats on all nine markets, visit and chose the What has sold locally. There are several years worth of sold data for each month and for each market.

Another bit of good news is that foreclosures and short sales dropped off so dramatically that I stopped even tracking them as a percentage of total sales. During the depth of the Great Recession, these sales used to account for over 50% of all sales. Now they are below 10% in all of the markets. 

The real news in the market right now is the tight supply that is driving prices up and driving would-be home buyers crazy. I stopped tracking the inventory levels in these markets a couple of years ago, but I can tell you that they were much higher. In the Milford market, for example, there are only 56 properties for sale in the range that I track (anything for sale above $20K) in both the Township and Village and only 18 of those are actually in the Village. That's probably about half the number that would be active in a "normal" market.

If you are a property owner and have been waiting for the market to come back, the wait is over. The market is back big-time. If you haven't had a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) done be a real estate professional within the last few months you are probably way off on what your house is worth. Get an update CMA and see where you are in this market. Many people who've been putting off listing, so that they can get on with retired life should now be in a position to do so. 

I'll update this report after the month closes, but I suspect that we'll long note January 2014 as not only one of the coldest and snowiest months on record, but also one of the slowest for real estate sales.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Help the Milford Historical Society by shopping at Kroger

Shop at Kroger and help the Milford Historical Society

Did you know that you can sign up your Kroger Rewards card for the Kroger Community Rewards program and the Milford Historical Society will receive quarterly donations from the Kroger program, based upon how much you spend at Kroger on groceries, gas and at the Pharmacy?

This program is part of Kroger’s give-backs to the communities that they serve and does not impact at all the points that you get for gas discounts. It is an additional donation that Kroger makes to support local non-profit organizations in the communities that they are located in.
Click here to read a Frequently Asked Questions article about the program. The Historical Society will be registered, but each person who wishes to contribute will have to re-register annually.

Click here or on the Kroger graphic to go to the Kroger Community Rewards site and sign up.

A new rewards year starts MAY 1st and you must sign up each year, so there’s still plenty of time to sign up and get the donations rolling before the May 1 renewal date.

The Non-Profit Organization (NPO) number for the Milford Historical Society under this program is 91661. Write that down, because you’ll need to enter it at the Kroger Community rewards site. You do not have to live in Milford in order to support this effort, just shop at your local Kroger store and register your Kroger Rewards card to this worthy charity.

If you don’t have a computer or feel comfortable using one, bring your Kroger card to the next Milford Historical Society General Membership meeting and we’ll help you sign up. You can find out when and where those meetigns are taking place by going to our Web site –  You can also come into the Museum when it reopens on a Wednesday or Saturday between 1 & 4 PM and we’ll help you register your card to help the Milford Historical Society. While you’re there, if you aren’t a member, you can join the society, if you’d like. Remember our motto – you don’t have to be a relic to be a member.

Even if you aren’t a member of the Milford Historical Society, you can register your card to help support the MHS and the Milford Historical Museum. Having a group dedicated to preserving and sharing our area history and a museum right in town is not something that many local communities have, so we hope that you will help out in this painless way to help keep Milford the great place that it is to live and work.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Slow January start in real estate...

The real estate market is really, really slow right now. How slow? Well, here we are in the third full week in January and the nine markets that I track on a weekly basis have a combined total of 55 sales. In “normal times” there would be more than 55 sales each week in those nine markets. To see all of the sales, go to my web site and click on the What Has Sold Locally choice in the upper left hand corner.  When you get to that page you can scroll down to the bottom and look at the sales in January for the last 3-4 years, if you want to compare and understand better how slow the market is right now.

So, what’s going on? For one thing the market is heavily constrained by the lack of inventory. There just aren’t enough homes for sale right now. Then there is the continuing uncertainty about the economy in general – lots of people are still afraid of losing their jobs. There is the overhang of the real estate bubble which has lots of people still believing that they are under water on their mortgages, even if they aren’t. Many owners just haven’t had a recent market analysis done to see if they are now able to sell. Property values have come roaring back and most would be surprised at the current value of their home on the market today.

The final factor is the new mortgage rules that came out of the Frank-Dodd Act, which require mortgage lenders to be able to document that the borrowers that they lent to were able to prove that they col afford to repay the mortgage. That sounds like something that should have been required all along, but it wasn’t and the new rules under Frank-Dodd require that mortgage companies collect quite a bit more documentation of the borrower’s credit worthiness.  That is off-putting to many would-be borrowers and has complicated the process for all.

What all of this means is that are both fewer homes on the market and, now, fewer people out looking. Everything has slowed down.  This too shall pass; but, for now, one must learn to deal with it. If you are a would-be seller, it is still your time, your market. Get an updated Market Analysis done by a real estate professional and see where you are in terms of being able to sell. The market is expected to balance out later in 2014, so now is the time that you have an advantage and can get the most for your house.

If you are in the market to buy the words patience and perseverance should guide you. Normally those are words that I use with sellers; but, for now you really may need to be patient in order to find the right house in this thin inventory and you certainly will have to preserver in your efforts to get prequalified for  a mortgage.  You may end up spending more time searching on line before you find a few listing worth actually looking at with an agent. At least use on-line sites that are up to date with the latest listings from the MLSes in your area.

You can search for listings in my market area that are updated every day at any of my real estate webs sites – , or . You can also get a link to a great mobile app from Real Estate One that you can download to your smart phone at my sites. I recommend these mobile apps to my clients because they allow you to interactively see what’s for sale in the area as you are driving around – a great tool. The app at my site is for Michigan only; however, if you go to your app store and search under Realtor, you can get the mobile app that covers the entire country.

For our clients and agents, our broker, Dan Elsea, does a video update for the market once a month, with his insights into the greater Michigan market and thoughts about the future of the market. To see his January Market Update, click here

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bitcoins – you just have to believe for it to be true

Like most, I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz – articles and news stories and such – about the new virtual currency called Bitcoin. Now, let me state up-front that I still don’t feel comfortable that I understand this whole thing about how Bitcoins are mined, i.e. created or brought into existence, at least in cyberspace somewhere. This is one of those concepts that can easily give one a headache when trying to understand it; however, I do believe that the concept of Bitcoins has a reasonable chance of catching on.

Let’s start at a more basic and understandable level, with an understanding of the concept of currency in general. Currency, money if you like, was created way, way back to facilitate trade. Before that everything was pretty much on the barter system. Prior to currency a bottle of wine might have been “worth” a half peck of wheat or some other commodity. Much of what was actually being exchanged in those days was probably food, but there were other things, even back then – household goods and of course jewelry (ladies always had to have jewelry).

So, sometime way, way back the concept of creating an easy to carry and exchange form of surrogate for actual goods was created and dubbed currency (likely not the work used back then, but give me some license on that). Perhaps the first currency was actually a commodity itself, like gold or silver. Some of the first scales developed in civilized worlds were used to measure the weight of this currency, in order to determine how much of some other items it could buy.

Fast-forward to the Roman Empire and we see some of the first use of coins as currency. The concept had evolved such that this trade surrogate, which itself had some intrinsic value (they were forged from gold or silver), was used because it was easy to carry about and generally accepted between people who had other things of value to exchange.  I’m sure that the value of exchange was locally determined, i.e. how many Roman denarius for that goat probably varied by regions. The important thing about this era is that it established firmly in everyone’s minds that they could accept this currency for their goods and use it to buy other goods – it was real money.

The concept of money evolved over millennia and settled into an exchange mechanism that was controlled by and backed by the governments of the various countries in which it was issued and used. That led to the establishment of very complex systems for establishing exchange rates between countries, systems so complex and so corrupted with political influence that they eventually became cumbersome. Eventually all currencies were freed from any connection to an underlying object of intrinsic value (the gold standard was abandoned).

Hit the fast forward button again and you have the concept of the Euro replacing many local currencies in the countries of Europe. The larger world is still awash in various currencies and there is still a very large and sophisticated mechanism in place to establish and maintain exchange rates, although the common interests of countries involved has dictated a more stable and less corruptible system for those exchange rates. At its absolute core it still comes down to how many of the X? (name that you call your currency) does it take to buy that goat. The concept of there still being some official entity in charge has hung on, whether it be called the central bank or the treasury of the country. The other thing that has endured is the existence of a physical instrument, whether it is a dollar or a franc or a pound note. There has always been something that the common man could hold in his hand and put in his wallet.

Enter the BItcoin. The Bitcoin is a virtual currency that had s no connection to any central authority. It is not backed by the faith and good credit of the government of the United State or any other government. It has at its core nothing of intrinsic value; in fact it has no physical embodiment. There is nothing beyond computer files somewhere in the “cloud” to represent this new value placeholder. It is truly a virtual currency.

An even stranger (at least to me) aspect of this virtual currency is the concept of how it is created or “mined”. I’ve  read 2-3 articles on this process and still don’t understand it well enough to explain. Apparently the whole Bitcoin concept was dreamed up by a mysterious and as yet unidentified technology guru who put forth the challenge of solving an increasingly difficult set of mathematical problems, each of which, when solved would result in the creating of some number of Bitcoins. The create of Bitcoins also put a cap on the total number that can ever exist. For reading on this topic which could serve as a great cure for insomnia go to . I suppose that this process is no more starnge than the government’s (all governments) ability to create more currency by just turning on the printing presses. More money exists because they say it exists.

For a while after they were created, BItcons were for a while the fascinating playthings of the technical community elite. Then a strange thing happened and they got out into the world at large and finally somebody asked, how many BItcoins for that goat over there? When the owner of the goat accepted whatever number that he took, Bitcoins became real currency.  An exchange mechanism to establish the rate at which Bitcoins can be exchanged for other currency is growing and the “value” of Bitcoins has fluctuated based more upon that than anything else – remember that there is no underlying intrinsic value or backing by any central authority. As I write this, the current Bitcoin to dollar exchange rate is $854.75. If you want to know what the exchange rate is at any time go to . Coinmill is one of the companies that is offering exchange services. You won’t be able to exchange your Bitcoins at the border at the exchange window.

Recent, I’ve read that at least a few real estate brokerages have been advertising home for which the sellers would accept Bitcoins as payment and they have stated that they will pay their agent’s commissions in Bitcoins. That should be interesting. Since they don’t exist physically, all you would get, one can assume, is some sort of pointer to a file somewhere in the cloud which would be your Bitcoin account. There’s probably an App for that, too; I just haven’t checked.

So, will Bitcoins be the next big thing? Will they take off and replace currency as we know it? It’s interesting to think about it this way – currency is all in our minds anyway. Since there is no intrinsic value in any modern currency, it is just our belief that it is worth something that causes us to stick it in or wallet and pull it out when we want to buy that goat over there. If you really consider it, most of what you think you have that is measured in modern currency terms only exists as files somewhere in the cloud now – your bank statement or investment statement tells you how much of this currency you have somewhere. It is basically your belief that you can turn those reports into real currency that can be spent to buy something that gives you comfort in the fact that you have nothing in your hand (or wallet) at the time. Bitcoins just take that thought process a step further - there is nothing ever in your wallet with them; but, you can still buy things with them.

Bitcoins feel weird to me right now as a day-today currency and I don’t understand the process through which they are created. They are a little awkward right now because we don’t yet have names for the subdivisions of this currency that might make sense. After all who wants to carry around a coin that is worth $854? Imagine trying to get change for that at your local filling station or 7-Eleven at midnight. Eventually those issues will be solved. I suspect that our Bitcoins will exist on our smartphones as files that can be accessed and used interactively at places like Starbucks for purchases, where the “change” is returned as a balance in the file. I’m still trying to figure out how the Salvation Army Red Kettles will have to be upgraded to let me tap my phone on the kettle and transfer some small portion of a Bitcoin to the kettle. At least I may end up with a smaller bulge in my back pocket. In the meantime, I have a house listed for sale for 281 Bitcoins, if anyone is interested.

By the way I was going to include a picture of a Bitcoin, but I couldn't find one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What’s happening at the Milford Historical Society?

January 16th - General Membership Meeting at the Milford United Methodist Church on Atlantic Street, starts at 6:30 with a potluck dinner. Program  - The Unusual, The Unique and The Ugly. Bring your favorite family heirloom, collectible or great garage sale find and show it off.  Tell us a little about it and maybe win a prize for your story.

This is a pot luck dinner meeting and these are the assignments for what to bring - A—F– Main Dish G—Q—Salad Q—Z—Desserts.

Even if you can’t bring a dish to share, come on out and enjoy the evening with us. You will need to at least bring a serving setting for yourself and whatever you wish to drink. Our members tell us this is the best pot luck dinner in Milford.

General Membership meeting are open to the public and are held every other month at the Milford United Methodist Church at 1200 Atlantic Avenue in Milford. There are two special meetings shown for April and October that are not general meetings and have no pot luck dinner. We may add more special meetings during the year, so stay tuned.

The rest of 2014 –

The other programs that we have planned for the year are shown below:

March 20th (Potluck)  Mrs. Lincoln (alias Pam Dawson). Meet Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln and hear her story while in the White House. If you haven’t seen Pam become Mrs. Lincoln you’ve missed a very believable transformation and acting job. The White House years were a relatively good time for Mrs. Lincoln who suffered bouts of depression in later years. Pam is well known amongst Civil War re-enactors for her portrayal of Mrs. Lincoln.

April 17th (No Potluck)  Mary Lou and Main Street.. Our own Mary Lou Gharrity will tell her great stories about Main Street, Milford. Mary Lou didn’t show up on the first wagons to make it to Milford, but she wasn’t far behind. Listen to some fascinating stories of Milford from someone who has lived here for a very long time. Mary Lou can tell you all about the Milford Hotel, where she grew up, because her dad ran the place. She also knows what every store on Main Street used to be, at least back to the early 1900’s.

May 15th (Potluck)  Annick Hewarth will  return and tell about the iconic CCC. Her book tells the stories from the men who worked those jobs. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 18–25 as part of Roosevelt's New Deal.  A part of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men, to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States while at the same time implementing a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory.

July 17th (Potluck)   Powerhouse Picnic Potluck (say that three times real fast). A tour will be included with this historic building. This is a potluck picnic on the ground of the Pettibone Creek Powerhouse, with tours of that historic building as the program

Sept. 18th (Potluck)  The Chelsea Jiffy Mix Story complete with free recipe books. Chelsea Milling Company
is operated by a family whose roots in the flour milling business date back to the early 1800’s. They’ve been milling flour in Chelsea, Michigan, for over 120 years. Mabel White Holmes, grandmother of Jiffy President, Howdy S. Holmes, developed and introduced to the homemaker the first prepared baking mix product, “JIFFY” Baking Mix, in the spring of 1930. They currently offer a variety of “JIFFY” mixes. Our mixes provide you, our consumer, with the best value available.

Oct. 16th (Milford Library, No Potluck)  Phyllis Barkey will speak on the famous downtown J. L. Hudson Building. She will bring with her a display case full of J. L. Hudson memorabilia and we are asking for everyone  to bring their favorite cherished item from Hudson's. Mine is a tin tea canister. Phyllis’ book about the downtown Hudson's eateries is in the works.

Nov. 20th. (Fall Potluck)  Milford's own Joe Salvia will be telling his war and military stories after eating a delicious turkey dinner. Joe works tirelessly every year to make the Memorial Day Parade a success in Milford. For those who’ve heard Joe speak you know he talks from both experience and passion about our military people and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

We are also planning a series of workshops on topics like how to preserve and repair historic home windows. Stay tuned to our web site –  – for more on those workshops. So, come on out and join us during the year. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy these programs and remember our motto – “You don’t have to be a relic to be a member!”

Monday, January 13, 2014

5th Annual Childhood Cancer Campaign Charity Bash at LaFontaine

On Thursday, January 19, from 6 to 9 PM,  plan on attending the 5th annual Charity Bash in the LaFontaine Automotive Group dealership at 4000 W. Highland Rd (M-59), Highland, MI 48357. 

This year’s event features the traveling Fashion and Automotive exhibit Fashion and the Automobile – 10 Era Exhibit. See how fashion in ten different eras of our history impacted the design of the cars of those eras.

Donations will be accepted at the door benefiting Childhood Cancer Campaign. A complimentary valet service will also be provided. There will be a strolling fashion show provided by Lady La’s Boutique, as well as the Fashion and the Automobile exhibit.  Food and drinks will be available. In addition there will be entertainment throughout the evening. Special Guests will include Matthew Richmond a paper dress designer and Dave Santia, a speed painter. See below for more on them.

The evening will allow you to drive down memory lane and see how trends in the fashion, art and design worlds have influenced each other and the cars that we all drove at the time. You’ll better understand how color choices were made and where some of the iconic design features of the time were influenced by fashion and art. To view the event poster full size, click here

To learn more about the  Fashion and the Automobile Exhibit traveling show and the people behind it, click here. To see what Matthew Richmond can do with a stack of paper, click here. You'll be amazed at his dress designs using nothing but paper. Finally, to see the results of some of Dave Santia’s speed painting efforts of many well-known celebrities , click here.  

The Childhood Cancer Campaign is a fund-raising effort of Optimist International clubs everywhere, with a goal of wiping out childhood cancer. To read more about the Campaign, click here

So, come out to LaFontaine's Charity Bash on Jan 19, have fun and contribute to a great cause. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Look for knowledge and problem solving ability; not time on the job

“Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.” – Steven Wright

I like that little saying that I saw on a blog somewhere. A corollary might well be, “Knowledge is something that you don’t get until after an experience.”   In real estate this is particularly true. The barrier to entry into the real estate business is relatively low. Just about anyone with a few hundred bucks and the ability to learn and be tested can get a real estate license. That and a few bucks more will get you a coffee at Starbucks, but you still won’t be a Realtor®.

Realtors work within a proven system. The most important component of the system is the brokerage, which is responsible for taking the newly minted real estate agent and turning him/her into a Realtor.  Of course there is also the local Multi-List Service, the local Realtor Association, perhaps a state association and the National Association of Realtors. All of these groups provide bits and pieces of the system that the Realtor must learn to work within. That is a part of the experience that the beginner gets, which hopefully starts the process of the accumulation of knowledge.

Good brokerages will have extensive training programs and perhaps a mentoring program that pairs the newbie with an experienced agent. The broker himself (or more likely the local office manager in larger, multi-office brokerages) will be responsible for the training of the new agent and for monitoring his/her work through their first few real estate transactions. The broker (or manager) serves as both a manager and counselor during this start-up phase. Most brokers and managers have years and years of experience and tons of knowledge about the real estate process.

One can often tell very quickly how successful the new agent will be by watching how he/she uses this important resource. Those who fail and leave the business are most often those who try to go it on their own and don’t leverage the resources of their office to help them over the start-up hump. Many of them get into deep trouble by not asking for help. Conversely, those who cling too tightly to this help and are afraid to try things on their own are also doomed to failure or a career of mediocrity. One must be able to wean oneself from the security of never making a decision on one’s own. A real estate agent is an independent contractor, after all, and must eventually become independent.

A key to turning the experiences that one has into knowledge is the ability to stop and look back over the experience to see what one can learn from it. Maybe the knowledge gleaned is “I’ll never do that again” or perhaps it is. “OK, I see what I did wrong and how to avoid that problem in the future or work around it if I hit it again.” Both are correct, but the latter is more valuable knowledge because it contains the thought process of learning from the experience and not just avoiding similar situations.

There is something to be said for seeking out an experienced Realtor, but if you happened to encounter a relatively new agent that you otherwise think is a nice person; ask them how they get help within their office and perhaps ask to meet with their manager or broker. Let that manager know that you expect that they will be assisting the new agent with any issues that come up during your client relationship and see what they say. A new agent will be eager to please you and probably work very hard; you just need to be sure that they understand how to work within the support system that they have around them to get help when they need it.

A final note is that time on the job alone does not assure that the person putting in the time has gained the knowledge that they should have from the experiences that they’ve had. I’ve met way too many “experienced” agents who still did not fully understand the process or have the ability to work through issues. Many times, one agent or the other in the normal scenario where there are two agents involved (a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent) will have to take on tasks for both sides in order to get the deal closed; even if both sides are represented by “experienced agents.” Just because an agent can say, “I’ve been in the business for 10-15-20 years”, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge during that time or that they can handle situations that may come up well.

Unfortunately there isn’t any easy way that you can really test the knowledge base and problem solving ability of agents whom you might interview before signing up with them. An in-depth interview that focuses more on how they do business than just how long they’ve been in the business or how many transactions they closed last year is probably the best thing. Asking to talk to 1-2 past clients might also help (assuming that you aren’t the first client) or reading their reviews from past clients, if the company does that sort of thing. You can also ask questions like; “What was your toughest sale/client and how did you handle that?” You should then listen for their problem solving approach and their honesty about the situation and how they handled it. They should be sharing the knowledge that they gleaned from that experience.